"Shibboleths" is an interactive art work created for the ACM Multimedia conference track on Interactive Art and will be shown at Columbia University's Macy Gallery in October 2004. This work explores the idea of shibboleths - linguistic traits that betray a speaker's origins, named after a word used to distinguish friend from foe in biblical times.
And the Gileadites seized the passages of the Jordan before the Ephraimites; and it was so, that when those Ephraimites who had escaped said, ``Let me go over,'' that the men of Gilead said unto him, ``Art thou an Ephraimite?'' If he said, ``Nay,'' then said they unto him, ``Say now 'Shibboleth.''' And he said ``Sibboleth,'' for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him and slew him at the passages of the Jordan; and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand. (Judges 12:5--6)
The work is now available as an interactive program on the web: Shibboleths. (Without recording. This is the fourth implementation of the work: C++, Flash, javascript+XML, processing.)

Here are a number of screen captures from the original computer installation.

Read the paper "Shibboleth: Exploring cultural boundaries in speech" that appears in the conference proceedings.

Shibboleths Home page